This is so infuriating

One of the big successes of science has been the steady eradication of diseases that once ravaged so many people across the world. So it is frustrating when some diseases are making a comeback because of the misinformation spread by opponents of vaccinations. The latest example of this backsliding is that four European countries (Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece and the UK) that once had been declared measles-free have had that status revoked by the World Health Organization because of new outbreaks.

“We are backsliding, we are on the wrong track,” said Kate O’Brien of the WHO’s Immunization Department.

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially fatal illness that causes coughing, rashes and fever.

The disease can be prevented through two doses of the MMR vaccine, which is available for free for all young children in the UK.

Countries are declared measles-free when there is no endemic transmission for 12 months in a specific geographic area.

Ms O’Brien said all four European nations that have lost their eradication status have “extremely high” vaccination coverage.

“This is the alarm bell that is ringing around the world: being able to achieve high national coverage is not enough, it has to be achieved in every community, and every family for every child,” she said.

Health experts warn that lies about the measles vaccine have allowed the illness to spread in certain areas or communities.

Combating the false information that spreads through social media is hard. It is not enough to just debunk the myths about vaccinations. People are influenced by stories and one story by one parent claiming a negative personal experience can be very influential in persuading other parents. To combat it, one must also put forward alternative, positive stories about the benefits of vaccination, such as a parent describing what actually happened to a child who was not vaccinated.


  1. Matt G says

    I like to bring up smallpox and polio. Smallpox is estimated to have killed 300-500 million. The disease no longer exists because of vaccines. If these anti-vaxxers had been alive 100 years ago, they would have been begging for the vaccine. Vaccines are a perfect example of something that is a victim of its own success.

  2. machintelligence says

    I was listening to a narrated reddit YouTube channel the other day with the topic : “Doctors, how do you deal with anti-vaxers?” One told the story of explaining the risks/benefits of vaccination to a reluctant mother, when after 10 minutes of conversation her (still unvaccinated) child had his first grand mal seizure. He tried to imagine her reaction if the appointment had started 15 minutes earlier, or if he had been faster at convincing her…

  3. John Morales says

    It’s infuriating because it’s so obvious; vaccines do work.

    The misinformation is there, but I think those who countenance it mainly have themselves to blame; there’s no good excuse in this day and age (of internet) to not know better.

  4. Jazzlet says

    It is infuriating, but I have my anecdotes ready and honed. My mother who got polio in her thirties -- yes adults did get polio -- separated from her young children for months while she fought the disease, then learned to walk again because poliio destroyed the nerves to her balance muscles; she used crutches for the rest of her life, she couldn’t run after us younger children or pick us up for a cuddle so the older, but still pre-teen, boys had to do that for her. All of us had at times to bend to tie the laces on her shoe, which didn’t just make me uneasy it left me withering with embarrassment. Then there’s my kid brother who missed the best part of a year of school after having measles becase he caught every single bug going round -- you know measles destroys everything the immune system has learned right? -- and they hit him hard, but of course he had it good compared to the friends and school mates who had hearing damage; apart from their day to day difficulties it affected their taste in music because they simply couldn’t go to many concerts with the hearing aids available back then, they just got a wall of noise with no lyrics or tune coming through, no ska or two tone or punk rock or prog rock or even middle of the road pop concerts for them nor come to that much classical music, several I knew couldn’t listen to any of that on even the best of stereos. Aother of my brothers got shingles in his twenties, I’m looking forward to getting the vaccination against that because his skin was so painful it hurt to have the lightest of clothes on and I really don’t fancy that. I was lucky I just had terrifying fever induced hallucinations, no permanent damage bar the odd chicken pox scar, they’ve faded now, but I had them including the ones on my face well into my forties.

    People who talk about these diseases as if they were nothing much need to be told about the stories of our friends and family for whom the diseases weren’t mild and who suffered permanent damage from them that still affects them to this day.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    … alternative, positive stories about the benefits of vaccination, such as a parent describing what actually happened to a child who was not vaccinated.

    “Positive” seems the wrong adjective here…

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